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Moving into early recovery often means adjusting away from not only whatever habits you had before rehab, but also from rehab and back into everyday life. That can mean a lot of stress and adapting to a new life – and often you can end up struggling with depression and anxiety. While these can be a side-effect of long-term drug or alcohol abuse, they can also be a part of radically changing your habits, removing your coping mechanisms, and taking away many of the ways that you used to have fun.
Improving your mood in early recovery may not be entirely possible. After all, part of it is likely about chemical imbalances in the brain which may actually take months or even years to improve. However, you can take steps to ensure you have the support and care you need to feel good as much as possible.
People are very social creatures. If you don’t have people to talk to, to hang out with, and to have fun with, it will negatively impact your mood. That’s why it’s important to make time for having a social life. However, that can be difficult if most of your friends use or drink. Spending time with family may also be important and good for you. On the other hand, you can look for 12-step or other self-help meetings, stay in a sober home for communal meals and chores, or go to classes and sober parties so you can interact with others in contexts that don’t involve recovery.
Making time for that will help you to feel good and good about yourself. Some people also opt to volunteer, but it’s important not to expose yourself to drinking and drug abuse too early – so volunteering should be in libraries, animal shelters, building homes, etc., rather than soup kitchens and emergency shelters or similar.
Sleep is one of the things that most impacts your mood. If you get enough sleep, you’ll have the energy to feel good. However, a good sleep schedule often means getting up and going to bed at about the same time every day. You’ll also want to aim for about the same amount of sleep every day, with most people needing somewhere between 7 and 9 hours – depending on age, gender, and metabolism. If you’re sick or experience chronic pain or mental illness, you’ll need closer to 9.
However, more sleep will almost always ensure you have the foundation for being in a good mood. You won’t be tired, you won’t struggle with aches and pains, and you won’t have a headache or similar problems caused by lack of sleep or poor sleep. Building those habits can be difficult, but trying for moving to bed at the same time every night is already a good start.
Most people know that you should exercise if you want to take care of yourself. However, it’s important to keep in mind that 30-60 minutes of light to moderate exercise does more for your mood than heavy exercise and exhausting yourself. This means that you’ll get more out of a walk or a light bike ride once a day than you will out of going for a run that leaves you exhausted. This means taking the approach of moving for the sake of moving and trying to find something that you think is fun rather than something that you think will help you lose weight or build muscle, etc.
Food is an important part of your mental health and well-being. Good nutrition means you have the energy and capacity to feel good. That’s important for two reasons. The first is that most people come out of addiction with some form of nutritional deficiency. Addiction actively reduces your ability to absorb nutrients from the food you eat, you typically have less capability to make healthy choices while under the influence, and may have other health related side-effects that result in reduced nutritional intake. Ensuring you eat well means you’ll be able to recover from that as quickly as possible – giving your body what it needs to feel good.
Eating well also doesn’t have to be hard. Normally eating about 3-4 cups of vegetables per day, ensuring you make healthy choices about 80% of the time, and eating diverse foods will ensure you get enough nutrition. You don’t likely need supplements or special foods unless your doctor says you do. Instead, you can simply follow the guidelines on a government resource like MyPlate.gov.
If you find that you end up being tired and overwhelmed at the end of the day and make unhealthy but convenient food choices, something like meal prep can help – because you’ll have food ready for you.
Having a neat and orderly space can make you feel much better about yourself and your living space. Making time for that, especially when you’re struggling with mental health and recovery, can be challenging. Here, the idea is to set aside a small part of your day, every day, for cleaning up and keeping your space how you want it. It also means looking at ways to minimize tasks or chores you struggle with, so your space can stay nicer. For example, getting a dishwasher if you often let the dishes pile up. Or, swapping chores with a neighbor if, for example, you never fold the laundry and they hate to cook.
Most of your goals as you get out of rehab will be big goals. Often, they will take months or even years to achieve. But, achieving small things is good for you and good for motivation. You can create small goals by breaking your recovery down into milestones. 1 month sober, 3 months sober, 6 months sober, a year sober, etc. You can also set up small things you want to do, like start going to the gym 4-5 days a week. Or, you can set up goals to try new things, to talk to specific people, or to do something fun. Most goals shouldn’t be so easy you can achieve them in a day or two, but it is a good idea to start off small and grow your objectives, so you can achieve things and feel good about yourself.
Moving into recovery is hard work and you will likely spend a significant amount of time in recovery, self-help groups, and learning about addiction and recovery. You might find that you’re actually very busy and constantly trying to do something. You shouldn’t be. Instead, it’s important to have downtime and to make time to relax. That can mean setting aside evenings. It can mean keeping one day a week free of any obligations. Or, it could mean ensuring you do everything you have to do before a certain time so you always have the end of your day free. And, you should ensure you spend that time doing something you enjoy or that’s just relaxing, like taking a bath or walking in the park, or spending time with friends.
No one can do everything on their own and you shouldn’t feel like you have to. If you want or need support or help, it’s important that you ask for that. Support can take many forms. You should probably go to a 12-step program like AA or NA. But there are other options. For example, you might go into an aftercare program, you might attend ongoing addiction treatment on an outpatient basis, you might want to move into a sober home or have a sober companion, you might be happy just having friends or family over for a few hours a day or available to talk to and call. What works for you will be unique to you, so try out different things and see what is enough to give you the support you need.
Recovery is a long process, but early recovery is often the most difficult part of it. Hopefully these tips help you to boost your mood so you can move through it as comfortably as possible.
If you or a loved one is seeking help for alcohol or other substance abuse, contact us at Stairway Resource Center today. At Stairway Resource Center we provide a 60 to 90-day outpatient program that takes place in an engaging and supportive community setting. We offer dual diagnosis treatment and daily group and individual therapy for our clients, in addition to fun community-based events and activities.
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Jim Sugel is an SEO and Digital Marketing Expert in addition to having achieved the coveted Google Partner status for PPC expertise. Prior to focusing on Digital Marketing, Jim worked in Information Technology roles at a variety of national firms as a software engineer and consultant, resulting in many years of professional coding and consulting experience.
Jim holds a Bachelor of Science, cum laude in Computer Science and Psychology from Loyola University Chicago. After relocating to Southern California from his native Chicago, he became involved in the recovery industry here, discovering a natural niche in helping treatment centers with Digital Marketing and other technology projects. Jim is the Founder and CEO of Airtight Digital, a firm that specializes in digital marketing for the behavioral health industry.
His other interests include hiking, canyoneering, urban exploration, and screenwriting. Jim now lives in beautiful and sunny Orange County, California.